21 December 2001

Ministers snub red diesel plan

EUROPEAN environment ministers have rejected plans to make red diesel sulphur free – a move that would have put up the cost to farmers by 10%.

The plans had been tagged on to European Commission proposals to improve road fuels by removing sulphur, from 2009.

But farm groups and oil refiners said extending this to off-road uses could be counter-productive. As well as adding 2.5p/litre to the cost of red diesel, extra emissions from the additional refining would outweigh any gains in air quality. Many farm machines would struggle to cope with the lower viscocity diesel.

European environment ministers have now concurred there is no need to extend the directive to off-road vehicles. Meeting in Brussels last week, they instead supported the commissions original proposal, which will see the sulphur content of road fuel cut to less than 10mg/kg (ppm) by 2009.

Member states will then have the option to set red diesel at the same level as gas oil (1000mg/kg), or at 500mg/kg, or the same as road diesel. It will not be mandatory.

While welcoming the development, NFU Brussels spokesman Tom Hind warned that the issue was not over yet. "This was just the first reading. The legislation now goes back to the parliament for a second reading."

Ultimately, the council and parliament have to find common ground. &#42